Content Crafters is an interview series where we de-construct the tools, tips, and tactics that top bloggers use to get so much work done. you’ll walk away in mere minutes with actionable takeaways you can try out right away. Let’s dive in!
Ben Sailer is currently the Content Marketing Lead at CoSchedule, which is a one-stop shop to help you plan, organize, and distribute blog posts and social media content.
We talk a lot on this blog about productivity and managing a content team. CoSchedule, as a tool and as a blog, is one of the coolest ways to do that.
Ben started at CoSchedule almost four years ago and has been a formative component of their content marketing strategy and approach. In this interview, he’ll discuss some of his philosophies and tactics on building a program that helps marketers in the field get their work done more effectively.
How did you get into content marketing and copywriting? What’s your origin story?
My content marketing career started in early 2012 after spending over a year searching for my first full-time position. I graduated with a degree in PR and journalism around the time the journalism job market had cratered, and while I had tons of experience in a variety of different areas from working for my university newspaper, doing freelance music journalism, and taking on a handful of internships, I wasn’t having much luck landing a full-time job.
That led to an existential crisis where I wondered if I should have developed a skill set in copywriting or something else entirely instead. Newspapers were dying, I wasn’t cut out for PR, and I couldn’t code beyond HTML, and wasn’t sure what to do.
Eventually, while living with my parents in another state to save on rent, I found a job listing for an Craigslist for an ecommerce content writer. I didn’t know what content marketing or search engine optimization were, but it sounded like something that would bring my skills together well.
Plus, their culture sounded weird (in a positive way) so I figured I’d probably fit in.
They got back to me almost immediately and a couple days later I was on a one-way flight back to my college town (Fargo, North Dakota) for an interview. I spent most of what I had left in the bank on a first-class ticket so I could pack most of my life on the plane and rolled the dice on everything working out.
That became my first job in the field and it taught me an incredible amount extremely quickly about content and SEO. I felt like I’d finally found an industry where I fit. After that, I spent about a year and a half at an agency before Garrett Moon, the CEO and cofounder at CoSchedule, lead me into the startup world.
I’m now our Content Marketing Lead.
What do you believe is unique about your background (in music journalism perhaps?), skills, or experience that allows you to be an effective and successful content marketer?
My background is all over the place, but I definitely think my experiences outside of content marketing have helped build skills that are useful doing what I’m doing now.
I also had an internship in a U.S. senate office where I mostly just cut through bureaucratic red tape for constituents, but managed to take on a couple small writing projects there too. And I took on a side project building and ranking a website for an MMA gym, which taught me a ton about local SEO and how that’s an entirely different world onto itself.
Plus, the three companies I’ve worked at in my career have all been in very different industries (e-commerce, agency marketing, and a tech startup), which has been helpful in terms of broadening my capabilities and understanding of content marketing as a whole.
I’m not sure how well that answers your question. But, I’d say the breadth and diversity of those experiences has been invaluable for doing this work, especially when it comes to being able to empathize with marketers working in different contexts when writing how-to content and guides.
What’s an absolutely essential skill or attitude needed to succeed in content marketing?
You need to be committed to learning and constantly developing your skills. This isn’t a good industry for someone who wants to passively clock in and clock out at a generic 9 to 5 job. Otherwise, you’ll quickly get left behind.
This probably sounds obvious to anyone who has worked in the field for any length of time, but for newcomers, going into your first job with a flexible problem-solving mindset right from the start will help you to help yourself succeed.
What’s an aspect or trend in content marketing that you believe has been entirely overlooked or missed by most marketers/writers?
I think the number one content marketers miss most is understanding how to create content that actually helps people get things done.
A lot of content creators can do an excellent job of explaining what their readers should do, but very few that know how to actually show people what to do. This causes too much money to get spent on creating too much content that ultimately fails to connect with audiences.
What’s a trend or tactic you believe is overplayed yet mostly ineffective?
Using the same outreach email templates as everyone else for link building.
Link building isn’t my specialty and I’ve made mistakes while learning the basics, so I’m not here to judge anyone too harshly.
But, I do have extensive experience writing pitches, and I will say that a lot of poorly-written, self-serving, off-topic, and obviously automated emails have gone straight in my trash folder over the years and I wouldn’t be upset if I never saw such an email ever again.
I strongly suspect that a less-but-better approach to email outreach will drive better results than spamming tons of people in the hopes that enough of them will link back to compensate for the vastly higher number of people you’ve been ignored by (or worse, actively annoyed).
If you didn’t work in content marketing, what would you be doing and why?
I was a kicker on my middle school football team and I often wonder how my life could have been different if I had thrown everything I had into succeeding with that, haha. I really wanted to be a major league pitcher, too. So, I’d say my dream job outside of marketing would have been “professional athlete who does one really specific thing and doesn’t have to move that much.”
Realistically though, I’m not sure what else I’d be doing because this is the only thing I’ve ever excelled at. My best guess is something with healthcare or nonprofits because I feel driven to do something that meaningfully helps people.
What inspires you? How do you come up with ideas for content, copy, etc.
Creating stuff that helps other people do their jobs better is what gets me up in the morning to do this job. A lot of our ideas are driven by what those people need from us most.
Gimme three tips to improve my writing (or rather, tips that anyone can use to be a better writer)
- Learn how to identify and remove unnecessary words. Writing clearly and concisely is essential.
- Read. Read everything you can.
- Write what you know. And if you don’t know something, research it until you do. Even better than that, try doing it yourself and share what worked and what didn’t